by Michelle Orian-Lau | Feb. 27, 2019
Every job has its challenges. But when you have passion for what you do, your job doesn’t have to feel like work. Even if your work involves climbing poles, handling energized power lines and braving all types of weather conditions.
AJ Satele reminded me of this when we had a chance to talk story recently. AJ is one of our 11 Hawaiian Electric employees who graduated from the four-year apprenticeship program in February.
“It was something that demanded the best out of me,” said AJ. “Completing this program, it gives me a lot of pride. It’s a big brotherhood — a big bond.”
His younger brother Liko, a Hawaiian Electric troubleman, had encouraged him to join the company and the apprentice program. It turned about to be one of the best decisions of AJ’s life.
“I loved it,” said AJ. “It exceeded my expectations. I had a pastor that once said, ‘When passion meets purpose, powerful things can happen.’ I always felt like I was a passionate, hardworking person. And I feel like I found my purpose here, work wise. And hopefully with time, it will lead to powerful things.”
As a lineman 1st year, AJ has a very different perspective of the job from when he first started with the company in 2014. “When you’re on the ground as a helper and you’re looking up, and you think you can get an idea of what to expect when it’s your turn to go up. But once you get up there in the action — touching hot stuff, your blood is pumping, you’re trying to think a million miles an hour — it’s a whole different game. At first, it’s real nerve wracking. But it’s fun for me now, I still have a lot to learn, but I’m really enjoying it.”
Being knowledgeable and prepared is critical for the safety of a lineman and the entire crew. “You don’t want to take your job home with you, but before you leave each day you want to have an idea of what to expect the next day. So, when you come in, mentally you have an idea of what you’re going to do — if you got a big job or small job,” said AJ. “Even the easiest of jobs, if you take it lightly somebody could get hurt. We always treat each job with a lot of respect.”
As a constant reminder to give all his focus and effort into his work, AJ writes one of his favorite Scriptures on his work gloves: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom,” Ecclesiastes 9:10.
Learning to climb poles demands concentration, because who wouldn’t find it daunting? “Not too many people can say they climb poles for work. If somebody can tell you that they’re not scared or at least a little nervous about it, that’s b.s. Everybody gets a little nervous, at least early on in your apprenticeship. Just like when learning anything new, the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. For me, to tackle that, I tried to have the mentality to just charge ’em. We have a lot of guys like that. Everyone works hard. Everyone works together,” he said.
Being a part of a team is the best part of AJ’s job. “I like that atmosphere being a part of a group sharing a common goal — and everyone striving for that. Being here, being a part of Hawaiian Electric, you have the engineers, the planners — all the different departments — and us being pretty much the hands-on team — I like that.”
The team he’s most proud of is his family. AJ and his wife Raeceen are kept very busy with their three active children, Welo (4), Aila (2) and Aivee (1) who love to be outdoors. You can see how much his daughter Aila enjoys the beach in the Project Footprint TV ad (AJ appears in it, too).
AJ and Raeceen are solid co-captains and make sure their family is always prepared for emergencies. So, when the weather turns stormy and duty calls, his wife and Super Woman, is ready to lead the team while he heads out to do his part to get the power back on. “We don’t exactly have the safest job. She understands what we do and trusts that I know my job well enough to work safe when we go out there.”
Michelle Orian-Lau is a senior communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.